Monday, September 30, 2013

Explanation of the Foam Cup Printing Project With Reflection

Here is a quick explanation of how Jose created his print.

What I learned from the project:

1) Fun projects can be a great way for students to decompress.

2) When the goal of the project is to explore instead of grade, the students enjoy it more.

3) Some students don't want to do 'that' fun project but it doesn't mean they won't want to do a different fun project later.

4) Students don't always see what they create as 'real' art. I am amazed by what they create, I wish they were too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Do You Really Need to Sub-tweet? If So, Can You Do It Positively?

Ok, I get that the title to this post is in itself something like a sub-tweet. Mainly because I am not calling you out in public.

I have noticed a lot of sub-tweets and way too many of them seem to be negative and aimed at someone in particular. It seems to me that this is the digital equivalent of calling your friends up and 'discussing' someone with them. Not too productive, but it sure can be fun to back bite, right?

What if you saw someone sub-tweeting positive things. Today I pushed out some positive sub-tweets and got Twitter crickets in response. If you saw them did you think I was tweeting about you? I hope so.

I am by no means perfect and I am sure I have sub-tweeted negative things before. Funny thing is, whatever the problem was I was tweeting about didn't get solved through that tweet. Perhaps there is a bit of value in venting.

I just want to encourage you, if you sub-tweet something negative try to follow that with something positive. After all, we don't want our streams to be full of negativity. The least we can do is put some balance in, right?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Classroom Hack: Creating Prints Using Styrofoam Cups

I wanted my students to simulate making prints with engraving. Unfortunately I don't have the materials or the money to purchase them. After some experimentation I decided that we could make prints using styrofoam cups. Simply carve the scene into the cup and then add paint and roll!

Example of letters created with marker. I created this to show students how the letters need to be written backwards for them to print correctly.

This is my first attempt at making a print. I smeared paint on top of a desk and rolled the carved cup in it. This is the print created after rolling it on the paper. 

Mr. Layne, my student teacher, created this. We had been experimenting with different types of paint/markers and we liked this outcome. The paint is glass paint that is used to write on things like automobile windows. I am really pleased with the amount of detail that comes through and with the interesting texture created by this paint.

Writing Workshop Professional Development

 Today's inservice is on Writing Workshop. We received this book, but spent no time in it. Instead we have been writing just like we expect our students to do.

I brought a notebook and my pencil box (which I keep full of pens I really enjoy writing with as well as various other tools.)

The first writing activity was to write an informal biography. Basically it was just a stream of thought based around my life. It wasn't too hard for me because I wrote one for my blog. Then we identified three types of writing we could do from the information in the story. I chose narrative, persuasive, and technical.

Ironically the next activity was to write a narrative using something from the informal biography. I wrote a story about a boy's first day at a new school and how he came to realize that there were a lot of new students in that school before him and he finds some comfort in that fact.

This story really is personal. The hallway exists and I often stop and look at the people in the pictures and wonder about their stories. On that wall are pictures of my grandfather, my father, my uncle and myself as well.

Here my narrative shows a few things I have done to edit it. The red shows adjectives that were place after the noun instead of the usual before the noun format. The green shows where I took verbs and chose more descriptive verbs I can replace them with.

Next we created poetry using a series of prepositional phrases. This was a bit harder than I expected. It seemed that each phrase was a multiple harder than the one before.

Just before lunch we were introduced to interest journals. The interest journals have specific interests labeled on them. Students will write in these journals and use them as texts they can find and explore words and phrases.

I chose the interest journal over Starry Night by Van Gogh. When I saw it I new that I needed to share a story in it. How often do students 'have to' share a story in your class? How powerful would it be if they had that experience?

Here is the story I wrote. It is about how one of the bathrooms in my school has had Starry Night painted on its walls. The stories in the journal that were written by other teachers that had been in this same workshop were very interesting to read as well. There are a lot of emotional connections to art work. We should make sure our students have the opportunities to both connect emotionally with art and to share how they connected with it.

Next we were asked to look a photograph from history and decide:
What does it say?
What does it mean?
What does it matter?

I really enjoyed this workshop, there were a lot of usable take-aways. Now to adapt them to my social studies classes.

Using Pen and Ink

Students wrote a letter to King George explaining why they did not like how he and parliament were running the colonies. After they finished their letters they transposed them using pen and ink. They all expressed how hard it was to write their letters and many showed admiration for their forefathers who had to work daily in that medium.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Video of the Day: BatDad

I thought this was a really fun video that shows a dad having a good time with his family. This dad is creating shared experiences with his family!

 At 0:38 he uses the word 'asses' so if you show in class you will want to skip that part.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Road to Revolution 1763-1775 Presentation

I created this presentation for my students to follow. They will do several activities using it including creating a timeline, making a print, and writing an ode. 

The timeline's essential question is: What events led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence?

Here is a link to the presentation. I have comments open if you would like to give me a suggestion there or you can just put it in the comments here.

Video of the Day: The Best Worst Music Video Ever

Not exactly a parody, more like a loving homage to the original. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Video of the Day 9/23/13 Jellyfish

I am using silly/fun videos in class to give the junior high some shared experiences. This is today's video, an oldie but goodie.

Some More Thoughts on Edcamps

I have been attending edcamps for a couple years. When they started I thought it was a great way to meet a lot of my online friends face to face. I really didn't tend to think much about what was being presented or who was doing the presenting.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about what is being presented/how it is being presented and I have come to a few conclusions:

1) Edcamps are too tech-centric. When I scan the presentations a very large majority have a technology tool in the title. The sessions deal with hardware and software and how to use theme effectively (not that I have a problem with learning how to use them effectively.)

2) Successful sessions are conversations. The sessions I see people highly engaged in tend to be the ones that people really remember. Watching adults find their voice in a classroom and talk about what they think is pretty powerful stuff.

3) The old model of the teacher presenting is still in use. I have seen a lot of sessions that were led by one or two teachers where they disseminate information to the adults sitting in rows taking notes. I totally get that this works for some/many of us. This isn't why I come to edcamps though.

4) Not having to leave the site for lunch makes a difference. Staying on site for lunch allows for a much longer time to meet and mingle with others. It also keeps the day less stressful simply because there is no extra travel.

5) What happens when you facilitate a session and no one shows up? Seriously, I had this happen Saturday. Fortunately the assistant superintendent of the district the edcamp was taking place in happen to see me sitting alone and came in. We had a great one to one conversation. It was the highlight of the day for me.

What have you learned from the edcamps you have attended?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Student Commenting: A Letter to Students


I applaud the fact that you are creating and publishing your work online for the world to see. You are creative, intelligent, and fascinating people. The things you publish inspire and delight many people. I want to encourage you to continue to share, share more, and share for the rest of your lives.

I have been blogging with students for many years and I have been encouraging people to leave comments on student blog posts. I co-created the Twitter hash tag #comments4kids and started the blog. I am uniquely qualified when it comes to getting people to comment on student posts.

Young ladies and gentlemen, the world doesn't owe you a comment. Comments are hard won in the education blogoshpere. They should be coveted like a really soft blanket or a dog that is potty trained. When a person cares enough to write a good comment, you have received a very special gift. A gift of that person's time, thinking, and attempt to communicate. Do not take this lightly.

In fact, you should really consider how hard it is to write a good comment. Have you ever tried? I am not talking about a 'drive by comment' where someone writes "Good job!" or "I enjoyed your post." I am talking about a well thought comment that accepts your invitation to a conversation. (Did you know that publishing your work online is an invitation to a conversation?) No one owes you a comment, but when you receive one you do owe it to them to reply.

I encourage (beseech may be a better word here) you to go to other students' blogs and accept their invitation to the conversation. Surely you can find another student that writes about something you are interested in or knowledgeable about. Do you remember receiving your first comment? You have the unique opportunity to help another student feel that way. How powerful is that?!!!

If you are reading this letter and have never had a comment from outside of your local community, parent/teacher/classmates, then this is your opportunity to be your own advocate. When you leave a comment add your blog's url under your name. Make it easy for the others to find you and reciprocate in kind. Encourage them to continue the conversation and maybe, just maybe you might find a new friend.

Keep up the great work. I look forward to reading your posts soon!

Mr. C

Friday, September 6, 2013

Anybody Can Teach When Kids Want to Learn

My 8th grade class in large part is extremely jaded about school. I can see it in their eyes when I talk to them about anything related to content or learning. Yes, they come alive when we discuss things they see as non-schoolie. Unfortunately, their idea about what is best for themselves stops somewhere between what I enjoy and what I should do to succeed. Usually it is way too close to the former side.

This isn't a pity party though, this is a reminder to myself that anyone can teach kids that want to learn. It is easy to walk into a class of bright, smiling faces eager to discover new knowledge. What is hard is to walk into class every day knowing that I face a battle that will often be lost. The real teachers walk into the class anyway.